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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Toy story: abandoned plastic brought back to life

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Brilliant initiative by a Glasgow community

A community group in Glasgow’s Southside is breathing new life into broken toys through a recycling programme that will see plastic usually destined for landfill turned into a range of homewares and gifts.

Part of the Govanhill Baths Community Trust, the Rags to Riches project is setting up new collection points in the local area and is asking anyone with unused or broken toys – particularly garden games that might not last until next summer – to bring them in for recycling, rather than taking them to the tip.

Typically, children’s toys are made from a number of different types of plastic that make them difficult to recycle through mainstream channels. Unlike plastics used in food and drink, toy makers do not have to specify the type of plastic used and, as a result of different properties and melting temperatures, common heat-powered processing risks producing harmful co-products and emissions.

Instead, the trust’s recycling facility – the UpHub - uses a suite of machinery and heat-free methods to grind up the discarded plastic into small chips, which are then mixed with resin or other materials to create a new substance that can be used for a variety of products.

Materials produced at the UpHub are then used by the Rags to Riches network of local crafters and makers to produce a range of handmade homeware and gift items such as jewelry, plant pots, candle holders and more. The items are made from 100% recycled materials and are sold at craft markets and online to help fund the trust’s valuable work.

Rags to Riches is a social enterprise which was initially set up to increase recycling rates and raise awareness of the opportunities for upcycling unwanted goods, helping the community to develop the skills to turn waste materials into new items. Its activities include workshops and outreach programmes to bring the community together, focusing on textiles, ceramics, and woodwork. As a result of the new plastic recycling scheme, Rags to Riches is now looking to expand its product range to include larger pieces and even furniture.

Lotti Blades-Barrett, Rags to Riches programme manager, said: “Now that the summer has come to an end, we’re finding people are stuck with broken outdoor toys like playhouses or cars that they can’t pass on or repair. Sadly, these types of toys often end up going to landfill as there are limited routes for recycling – most household recycling centres would struggle to process the mixed plastics they are made with.  

“Through the UpHub facility, we recognised an opportunity to start recycling unwanted toys to create a new material for our social enterprise projects. We have a range of machinery that can be used to process the material, with experts that guide us through safe techniques and methods for recycling complex plastics.

“So far, we have collected a wide range of toys of all sizes that will end up used as part of our product range and sold through our online store, with profits directly supporting the local people and the trust’s wider ambition to foster wellbeing in the community.”

The recycling initiative is supported in part through a £30,000 grant earlier this year awarded to Govanhill Baths Community Trust from the Glasgow Community Anchors’ Fund – a partnership between the HFD Charitable Foundation and Virgin Money Foundation.

The trust was formed in 2004 following a successful campaign to save the Govanhill Baths, which it hopes to eventually re-open as a wellbeing centre run by the community, for the community. The trust currently provides a wide range of support and wellbeing activities from the People’s Pantry, which aims to tackle food poverty, to an annual international festival and carnival that celebrates the area’s diversity.

Kat Ovenden, trustee of the HFD Charitable Foundation, said: “The Glasgow Community Anchors’ Fund was set up to support fantastic causes that are delivering critical support in their local communities, bringing people together through a range of initiatives and projects. The Govanhill Baths Community Trust is a great example of that and, as well as supporting wellbeing, social inclusion, skills development and employment opportunities, we admire the trust’s underlying focus on sustainability.

“Through the Rags to Riches plastic recycling scheme, the trust is supporting both local people, by working with them to create a range of products and generating income that funds other activities, and helps the environment, by finding alternative uses for waste products. We look forward to seeing the initiative develop, particularly as Scotland’s wider focus on tackling climate change gains momentum – something which is reflected in the broader goals and ambitions for both HFD Group and Virgin Money.”

Nancy Doyle-Hall, executive director at the Virgin Money Foundation said: “It is fantastic to see community groups like Govanhill Baths Community Trust making such a positive difference both to their neighbourhood and to the planet with help from the Community Anchors’ Fund. This is a wonderful initiative at a time when sustainability and climate change are the topic of many people’s conversations.”